British liberal internationalism, 1880–1930

British liberal internationalism, 1880–1930: Making progress?

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    British liberal internationalism, 1880–1930
    Book Description:

    This book explores the development, character, and legacy of the ideology of liberal internationalism in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain. Liberal internationalism provided a powerful way of theorising and imagining international relations, and it dominated well-informed political discourse at a time when Britain was the most powerful country in the world. Its proponents focused on securing progress, generating order and enacting justice in international affairs. Liberal internationalism united a diverse group of intellectuals and public figures, and it left a lasting legacy in the twentieth century. This book elucidates the roots, trajectory, and diversity of liberal internationalism, focusing in particular on three intellectual languages – international law, philosophy and history – through which it was promulgated. Finally, it traces the impact of these ideas across the defining moment of the First World War. The liberal internationalist vision of the late-nineteenth century remained popular well into the twentieth century and forms an important backdrop to the development of the academic study of International Relations in Britain.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-350-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Among the central ingredients in any history of the twentieth century are the recurrence of massive, bloody and frightening wars, hot or cold, and the pursuit of peace, inspired, partly at least, by visions of liberty and order in a world of nations. The ending of the Cold War and the development of the human rights regime have contributed to the seemingly unequalled position that liberal ideas about freedom, democracy and the economy now enjoy – a hegemony that has profound and sometimes violent implications for international politics. In such circumstances, it is easy to forget that liberalism, like any ideology,...

  5. Part I Beginnings
    • CHAPTER 2 Victorian liberalism and the roots of liberal internationalism
      (pp. 25-58)

      From the mid-1830s until 1886, or perhaps even 1914, liberalism was the dominant political force of the most powerful country in the world. Part social analysis, part public morality and part political project, the attractions of liberalism were obvious. In its British heyday, liberalism developed into a bundle of assumptions about individuals and society that many besides self-professed liberals came to share. But while British liberalism grew in scope and popularity in the half-century from 1830, it was also diverse and, at times, plagued by inconsistencies. This chapter sets the context for the analysis of the intellectual languages of internationalism...

  6. Part II Languages
    • CHAPTER 3 Legal evolution and the redemption of international law
      (pp. 61-100)

      It has become a commonplace to note that the modern body of international law, shared by a society of civilised nations, has its roots in the classical tradition ofjus gentiumand in a ‘law of nations’ applicable to a family of Christian and European peoples. However, not much resemblance remains; as with most other intellectual activities, the pressing questions and the more or less well argued answers unremittingly change in the course of history.² The traditional portrayal of the nineteenth century casts formalism and notions of absolute sovereignty in central roles; apparently, it was a time when legal positivism...

    • CHAPTER 4 Philosophy and internationalist ethics
      (pp. 101-147)

      This chapter examines variants of liberal internationalist ideology developed within a philosophical language. It demonstrates that peace and order were central themes among British philosophers, as they attempted to systematically theorise international politics. The analysis provides an important component in our venture to understand the anatomy, variety and trajectory of liberal internationalism as well as the preconditions of theorising about international politics in early twentieth-century Britain. Apart from a brief discussion of philosophical idealism, the bulk of the chapter is devoted to a critical exegesis and analysis of the international thought of Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) and Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900),...

    • CHAPTER 5 Liberal internationalism and the uses of history
      (pp. 148-194)

      No fan of traditional history writing, Herbert Spencer took particular exception to the ‘great man’ theory of history, a doctrine that involved an unscientific and ‘universal love of personalities’ such as ‘Frederick the Greedy’ and ‘Napoleon the Treacherous’.² While this attack was mainly directed at a familiar opponent of positivist history, J. A. Froude, the loathing between Spencer and the historians also extended to William Stubbs, a notorious patriotic and imperialist Tory with a Whiggish histori cal bent, who ‘solemnly burned a volume of Herbert Spencer while Canon of St. Pauls’ in the late 1870s.³ There is, indeed, something to...

  7. Part III Traces
    • CHAPTER 6 Into the twentieth century
      (pp. 197-234)

      The twentieth century was profoundly shaped by the experience of world wars, and it was in coming to terms with arms races, economic crises, aggressive nationalism and totalitarianism that liberal intellectuals, particularly in the Anglo-American world, most vigorously and successfully promoted the ideas and ideals of internationalism. The League of Nations and the United Nations can be seen as the blossoming fruits as well as the sad failures of this creed. The new generation of internationalists coming of age in the twentieth century agreed that the moralist spirit of the old internationalism was insufficient, and their new, reformed internationalism, while...

    • CHAPTER 7 A postscript
      (pp. 235-241)

      The twentieth century dealt liberal internationalism a peculiar fate. In practical politics, liberal internationalism had a profound influence on the values and institutions underpinning international politics since the end of the First World War – the League of Nations, the United Nations, their different systems of collective security, the most important economic institutions as well as the development of international law in the realms of arbitration and human rights all bear the stamp of internationalism. Yet the workings of these regimes and institutions have been repeatedly stymied by totalitarian regimes and superpower conflict. Indeed, while the internationalist vision continues to play...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 242-270)
  9. Index
    (pp. 271-276)